Monday, March 17, 2014

Family Cruise 2014: Day 3, At Sea

Again, I don't recall if we did Windjammer Buffet, or dining room for breakfast.  Whatever we did one day, we did the opposite the next.

The big concern for the day was to get ice show tickets.  Each ship organizes this differently.  Some ships allow you to pre-book your shows, some ships organize ticket handout by stateroom locations.  The Independence of the Seas did it the "old" way:  come and get it at 8:30 and hope you get what you want and that when you get the next day's compass, there isn't something else you'd rather do at that time.  Since Mum & Dad's room was near the ticket table, Dad went down to get tickets.  Then Mum went down to exchange those tickets for a time that wasn't in the middle of our dinner :)

We were to meet up at 12:15 for the family challenge, and opted to fill some time with mini golf.  The kids had been asking since we got onboard, but it's always busy the first few days.  And when at sea, it's very windy.  It's a great course, so we tried to hold them off for awhile, LOL, but that didn't work.

Usually, our family and mini-golf is not a good combination.  We've never had a good experience with all five of us and mini golf.  Maybe this time worked because the two older ones went ahead with Rob, and I ended up with Megan, a few holes back.  Grandma and Granddad had Nya.

 Windy!  Surprisingly windy!

 Look!  They're smiling!!
 Interesting...I never got a picture of Megan!  Part way through the course, the older woman behind me and I stopped to watch an older lady on the FlowRider.  She was really getting going on it!  We said to each other that we both thought we were too old ourselves to try it, but after watching her, maybe not!

After mini-golf, there was still time, and the rock wall was open, so the kids opted to try it out.
 Nya went first
 She got off to a great start!
 Being the first to go, I think she didn't have the peer pressure to push herself too far and I heard she isn't fond of heights.  We really didn't know what to expect for the kids, so we thought she did awesome.  I think she got a bit higher than this picture, but I ran back to watch Lucy.  I thought there was a specific kid portion, but apparently not.
 Then Lucy went.
 Again, off to a great start.
 She got a little higher!
 Then it was Meg's turn.  I was running back and forth (around the back of the wall).
 I kept thinking she would be done at any moment, and took so many pictures that when looking at them on the camera, it's almost a video!
 She kept going!  She had just passed a really hard section, above.
 And wow!  She made it to the top!  By this time, there was a bit of a crowd cheering her on.  I felt SO proud.  I know she has improved her leg strength with figure skating, but she's not a small girl :)
 Her descent was a bit bumpy (as was Lucy's...really, the staff should not be having conversations with other staff while doing this!).  And there's Hugh already half way up.
I really thought Hugh would make it up.  I don't think he knew Meg had done it.  You can see the crowd that was cheering her on, at the back.  Hugh made a great attempt too, given that he's not one for much physical activity :)

After rocking climbing, it was time for the Family Life Raft Challenge in the Explorer Room!
We were a little early, but waited for more families to show up.  No one else came!  That was surprising, since so many people came to the door decorating activity.

 The leader split us up into teams, since we couldn't agree on them ourselves.  Two engineers, a few very smart women, and four kids...We were given some supplies:  two paper plates, a piece of wax paper, some Popsicle sticks, some tape, a balloon, and some little paper condiment cups.

  We had to design a lift raft that would hold wood Jenga blocks.  The winner held the most before sinking.  There was  a little bit of spying, and a bit of complaining that Granddad was using his pocket knife, LOL.

My team was Lucy and Hugh and I.  We didn't realize at first that we had two paper plates so we lost a bit of time with re-designing our boat.  
Here are the team:  Grandma, Meg and Rob; Me, Hugh and Lucy; Lou, Nya and Granddad.  Am I really that short?!  That dress is very comfy but not very flattering!
Rob and Meg strategize to fill their life boat, which had a canoe shape.

Grandma checks in.  I don't remember how many they got, but maybe 9?

 Hugh and Lucy worked together to load up our raft.  We also had some interesting design elements, but could have used a slightly bigger piece of waxed paper.  I think we got 16 blocks.
 Look at that great engineers needed!

 Lou and Nya stack up their raft, which was similar to ours.
They were the winners, with I think 23 blocks!  The kids all got cool watches!  During the door activity, they got Royal Caribbean medals, which was also pretty cool.  We had a great time, it was nice and cool inside, though a little noisy, being under the sports court!

I don't remember the afternoon.  LOL.  I have no pictures, so we might have been in the pool.  Or, relaxing.

 Here's the menu's from the night's meal.  Hugh had the smoked Duck Breast I believe.  Mum had the crab cake which she wasn't too keen on, and it turns out that it's not prepared on ship, it's pre-made!

 I had Chicken Cordon Bleu, but I thought I had it later in the week.  It's also prepared off-ship.

 I probably had the baked chocolate mousse.  No, wait...I think I had the Coffee Mousse and it was divine.

After dinner, we went back up to the cabins to change.  We'd been giving the kids a little of freedom, and Meg asked if she could go to the library and read her book (she was supposed to read everyday).  It was one deck down, next to the elevator.  Sure, we said, we'll come there and meet you when it's time to go to the show.  When the time came (only about 20 minutes later), we went to the library.  There was a girl in a strange outfit and blue wig, dusting the books.  But no Megan.  Blued haired girl hasn't seen anyone in the library.  We looked out onto the Royal Promenade, and I just caught her carrying a Sorrento's plate and getting in to the elevator.  As it got to our deck she turned to look towards the library...the shock on her face as we all waved to her was priceless.  She had pushed for deck 8, and then came back down for deck 7.  Busted!!  LOL!!

Then, we went t o the Headliner Showtime, which was "The Vocal Manipulation of Michael Harrison".  The kids really enjoyed it.  There were a few moments of adultness, but I think it went over their heads.

One thing I noticed is that the shows were timed really well around dinner and each other.  Previously, shows seemed to be a bit longer, and you either were late for dinner, or rushing to get  to the theatre.  I will say though, that having only two showings of a show, is NOT enough.  The theatre was always packed.  We started out going 15-20 minutes early and were lucky to get seats close together (really, we'd have to camp out before dinner to get 9 seats together).  By the end of the week, 30 minutes was not enough time to get four seats together without a pole in the way.

The children's area is really pretty at night when it's closed and quiet LOL.
After the Headliner Showtime, I took Meg for a walk around outside, hoping to tire her out and get the other two settled and maybe asleep so Rob and I could leave them and go to the late night adult comedy.
 The Solarium on these ships is much nicer than on the Oasis Class, I think.  This is a REAL pool.  Sometimes it's even warm enough to use, LOL!  This is the only pool that you can walk into, instead of climbing/jumping into.  Rob and I got in it once this time :(  The only draw back to this area is if you're walking around the ship with kids, they're not supposed to be in here, so you need to duck inside and go up/down a deck, since this is right at the front of the ship and goes totally across the width.
On the way back we saw that the "70's Disco Inferno" had started on the Royal Promenade.  After getting stuck in one of the Royal Promenade parades once, we try to avoid these events, or watch them from the library/on line rooms.  It's a sea of people, and once you start down the Promenade, there are no exits until you're at the other end!  Mum and Dad tried to watch it from their room, but they were too far down the other end.

The kids weren't asleep, but we headed out to the late night adult comedy of Phil Tag.  Dad babysat Nya, so it was the rest of us adults (4).  There was the usual "how small is my cabin" humour, and he was a fine enough show.  Nothing outstanding, but I'm not a huge comedy fan anyway.

Another late night, but like they say on the ship, save sleeping for when you get home!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Family Cruise 2014: Day 2, At Sea

At the end of day 1, several people wanted to plan what time we'd meet for breakfast, but I knew our gang was still pretty tired!  Now, just a little over a month later, we can't all agree on where we went for breakfast.  Some say we went to Windjammer, some say we went to the dinning room.  I seriously don't remember!!  I do know that we all met up  at 10am to go skating!
 Meg was troubled by the idea of skating on the ship. We allowed her to bring her skating pants and jacket, but we wouldn't allow her to bring skates. It's hard to know before you go, how many skating sessions there'll be. We had described the rental skates, showed her pictures, told her she'd need a helmet, etc, but she was still resistant. For about the first 45 minutes, our group were the only people on the ice! 
 We had Dad M, Rob, Lou, Me, and the four kids:  Nya, Meg, Lucy, and Hugh.  The only one who didn't skate was Mum M.  I was happy even Lucy and Hugh skated, since they hadn't skated in awhile (no skates that fit anymore!).  Meg was really hesitant to do any of her tricks, but the ice wasn't in very good shape.  Nearly everyone fell at some point!  You're supposed to skate for 30 minutes, but since no one else was there, we kept going LOL.  Finally a few other people came, and gradually our gang stopped skating. 
Royal Caribbean prides itself on having a huge art collection on board the ships.  Everywhere, there is original art.  They also do the "Art Auction at Sea".  Rob and I went once, it was interesting, but it wasn't like we were about to bid on anything big (they will arrange shipping).  On our first cruise, it was held in the lounge on the bow on deck 5, but this time, it's been moved down to the On Air lounge by the ice rink.  Actually gets a bit more traffic there probably.  Lucy loved this sea turtle picture.  It really glowed like it was lit up!

I liked this painting.

Not sure what happened next, I think we all went back to our cabins to change, with instructions to meet in the Explorer Room (one of the Adventure Ocean rooms) for Family Stateroom Door Decorating. 

 Working hard on their art!

 Siblings and cousins!  Can you tell?  :)
 Grandad and Meg

We got there early and got started.  Now, you must understand about the Mainwaring family.  They are all very artistically blessed.  We were reduced to markers, glitter and glue, but they all had a lot of fun creating signs for our doors.  It was great to see other families out too, though it meant supplies were in hot demand!  We had to leave our artwork to dry, and move on to the next activity, which was probably lunch. 

My next pictures indicate some fun pool time!  It wasn't all that warm feeling out, and I was hesitant to go swimming because in the past, sometimes the pools were really cool.  The kids assured me that the kid pool (uh, not sure why they put such a deep pool in the kid zone) was warm, and indeed, it was!

 I did, however, prefer the kid-size hot tubs in the H20 Zone!

 The underwater camera can give some neat effects!  Below is an underwater shot showing how around the pool, there is about 4 inches of water, and then it drops off directly into the pool, around 48" deep (some are even deeper; there is no "shallow end" that graduates into a deep end!).

After pool time, I think we went back to our cabins for some rest and to get ready for the first formal night.  The girls were so excited to get dressed up and had a hard time choosing which outfits.  I found out that although Rob had "approved" Hugh's packing job, there were about 4 casual/nice shirts that he hadn't packed!  He did have his "formal" attire though.
It takes a long time to get 5 people ready for a formal event; it's a good thing we had two showers and bathrooms, and plenty of mirrors in the cabin too.

The girls realized that the washrooms were close to the dining room and it was a fun spot to hang out between courses since they weren't all sitting next to each other at the table.  For the first few days, an adult chaperoned them, but by the end of the week, they were going on their own.

I didn't get any food photos again, but did get some menu photos.

 The last three Starters were available every night (shrimp cocktail, escargots and Caesar salad).  I had the escargots.  Well, I SHARED the escargots, LOL.  If the banana and rum soup didn't have bananas in it, I would have chosen it :)
 You can click on the photos to enlarge them and read the details.  I had the Pan-fried Silver Corvina Fillet.
 The Classics were available every night, and this is pretty much what the girls had every night.  They weren't kid sized portions though!
There should be one more Dessert picture of the "every day items":  Baileys Creme Brulee, Chocolate Sensation, and the Royal Cheese Plate (as well as ice creams).
 Um, yeah.  Long day.
 Three out of four isn't bad?

The formal night is one of the opportunities to get portraits taken.  It makes the area around the entrances to the dining room very busy, but we did take the chance to get some shots done.  However, not many turned out very well.  In the ones of just the kids, Hugh is standing behind the girls, and he looks like their bodyguard.  In the large family shots, there wasn't a single picture where we all looked good at the same time. Some of them were actually kind of funny.  We considered getting one anyway, but at the start of the week, you think you have plenty more options for photos, and are still in the conserving money mode.

We headed back up to our cabins, and found our first towel animals!

We got dressed down (I thought the many mirrors made it a cool way to get a picture of the back of one of my favourite sweaters I've machine knit):

to go to the Production Showtime, "Invitation to Dance", featuring the musicians and dancers as they showcase dance throughout the eras.  The kids found it a little boring, and I noticed that the live band was miked too loud compared to the singers.  It made it hard to understand some (much) of the vocals.  But as usual, the quality of performances was excellent.

We thought we might get Hugh out to the evening teen activities, but we didn't even make it to the free arcade period.  A little disappointing, but we were all tired!  I was finding it challenging to fit everything in.  There were family and kid activities planned at 5:15, right when we'd be getting ready for dinner.  While I liked having the earlier meal, it did feel like we were missing out on other things.  Even on port days, it meant missing sail away sometimes, and we only saw a sunset if it  happened to be visible through the dining room windows.

It was a fairly "early" night in bed for everyone!